Offsites at SDCC 2018

by Transmute Jun

2017 marked a turning point for San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) offsites. They were plentiful, they were expansive, and (for the first time) they had overnight lines. This trend continued in 2018, with big offsites drawing significant crowds throughout the con. While the Exhibit Floor still had plenty of splash, there were very few ‘experience’ booths, with many of those activities moving to the Gaslamp. Since many attendees did not have to wait in lines at the convention center (due to a less flashy Hall H schedule and online lotteries held for many exclusives and autograph signings) they spilled out into the area surrounding the con. At times, it felt like there were just as many attendees outside of the convention center as inside.

So where did all of these attendees go? Some of the biggest lines were at the Jack Ryan experience across from the Marriott Marquis hotel, put on by Amazon Prime, with some attendees sleeping overnight to ensure that they could participate in all of the activities. Participants could work through a detailed escape room (which included grabbing real cash dropped into the room), immerse themselves in an active VR simulation that involved real rappelling and zip-lining, and earn special prizes (such as Amazon gift cards and Fire Sticks) by completing puzzles and giving code words to ‘secret agents’.

Another popular offsite with long lines was the Taco Bell/Demolition Man experience in the Gaslamp, which re-created scenes from the movie while offering participants a free five-course gourmet dinner, courtesy of Taco Bell 2036. Only open in the evenings, the line was usually capped hours before closing time.

Doom Patrol Laboratory at the DC Universe Experience

Attendees also packed the Adult Swim installation, which occupied its usual place behind the convention center. Unlike many other offsites, Adult Swim was open late into the evening (and early morning) hours, which made it popular with night owl attendees. The offsite was themed to a ‘state park’, with many activities where attendees could earn prizes. FXhibition occupied the Hilton Bayfront hotel lawn, offering a variety of different photo ops, including some from Legion and Cosmos.

The DC Universe Experience was another well-attended offsite. Hosted on the Hilton Gaslamp property, attendees received RFID wristbands that allowed them access to activities inside, which included a walk through the swamp (to meet the Swamp Thing), a visit to the Doom Patrol Laboratory (to enjoy a taste of smoking popcorn), a Dick Grayson escape room (which included a trailer for the upcoming Titans show) and a walk-through comic book experience featuring the Court of Owls. The RFID wristband also allowed attendees to easily pick up their digital photos from the event.

For those who wanted swag, The Purge offsite in PetCo Park was a popular choice. Purge City (bearing a strong resemblance to the Party City store franchise) gave every visitor $20 in Purge Dollars, allowing them to pick out and purchase their own items celebrating The Purge (as featured in films and an upcoming television show). T-shirts and hats were the most popular souvenir items at this offsite.

Although Ready Player One was released last spring, the film was strongly represented at SDCC, occupying the building across from the Omni hotel where Game of Thrones reigned supreme for the past few years. The offsite offered two different challenge rooms, from which participants had to escape by answering questions about 80s music or television shows. The site also had replica sets from The Shining, including the hallway with the ‘blood elevators’ and the bathroom from the infamous Room 237, as well as props and photo ops from the Ready Player One film.

Death Slide at the Deadquarters

Fans of The Walking Dead filled the Deadquarters, on Harbor Blvd. across from the convention center, where sets and experiences from the main show and its Fear offshoot entertained them. The most popular activity here was to go down the ‘death slide’ into a pool of walkers, as characters did in a recent Fear episode. Attendees could also go through the Sanctuary from the main Walking Dead show, and take photos of themselves in Eugene’s favorite gaming chair (jar of pickles included). Popular photo ops included Daryl’s bike and Jadis’ junkyard meatgrinder.

There were many smaller offsites as well, such as Star Trek: Discovery’s Mirror Universe-themed museum on Fifth Ave., with costumes and props on display, as well as a photo op with the Mirror Universe transporter. Other fans enjoyed the Sacred Lies escape room and the DC ice cream truck (where attendees could get free ice cream) at The Experience at PetCo (the parking lot across the pedestrian bridge from the Hilton Bayfront hotel). This location also housed the Cloak & Dagger offsite, where fans could participate in a photo op and create their own badges and lanyards.

Puppet workshop at the Laika offsite

Laika (creators of stop-motion films such as Coraline and ParaNorman) once again broke the mold by opening their offsite days early, seeing long lines almost a week before SDCC officially began. The tour and museum were well worth a visit, and included small-group sessions with puppet creators and a cameraman who demonstrated how the puppets are created and filmed.

It is clear that offsites and activations surrounding the convention center have become a significant part of SDCC, as well as a must-see stop for many con attendees.

Which offsites did you enjoy at SDCC 2018? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.